Feeding behaviour of juvenile munias

“I was at Dairy Farm Nature Reserve. We were walking along the open-air, grassy stretch that runs parallel to the mountain biking trail the previous day. As we were on our way back we spotted a small flock of about 10 munias foraging on the grass. From what we could discern, they were possibly young Scaly-Breasted Munias (Lonchura punctulata) as one of them had the faint scalings on its breast (above left, bird on the right).

“Munias are always a delight to watch, especially how they strain, almost on tiptoes, to reach the seeds at the tips of grass stalks. Some of these young ones managed to find a way to get over their height issues. They would jump up and onto the grass stems, using their weight to push the flimsy stems to the ground to access the seeds with less effort. In the photo (above right), you can see the young munia that I managed approach sitting on a grass stem with its beak full of grass seeds.

“When the grass stems are too long and too heavy to bend to the weight of a little munia, the birds endeavour to employ a different method. In the picture on the left, taken in Pulau Ubin, is the end result. The bird will, from what I have seen, land as close as it can to the head of the stem where the seeds are. Then it will slowly inch sideways and then slide neatly down as the grass stalk bends. Of course they aren’t always successful. I have seen birds having to try and try again before they can finally get at the grass seeds.

“Have these feeding habits been documented previously? It would be interesting to find out if these habits are instinctive, as the little flock at Dairy Farm comprised mostly of young birds, except that one individual I mentioned above.”

Ruici Ong
16th July 2011

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